How To Build A Keyword List
Words matter. Picking the right words to describe your business or product can be the difference between success and failure. How do you pick these key words?
Keywords are more than mystical ingredients of SEO potions. An effective keyword strategy is critical to SEO inbound marketing marketing EVERYTHING!
A keyword strategy can guide content marketing efforts and advertising, inform website architecture and design, identify business opportunities and predict profitability, improve customer service and much more. So what keywords should you be using?
Determining which keywords are most important can be a daunting task. What follows are some tips and tactics for building a list of relevant keywords.
BEGIN WITH BRAINSTORMING
Building our keyword list begins with brainstorming. What is the language that people might use for their search? What words and phrases are relevant to your product or service?
Keyword phrases of 2-5 words are better. Single words (e.g. travel, cars, poker, attorney,etc…) are typically not helpful, and the user figures this out quickly. At best they tend to be ridiculously competitive. Incidentally, if you’re wanting to capture the market for “hotels,” you might want to look elsewhere for help. Some keywords such as “attorneys” or “plumbers” will trigger local listings, so I’m not saying they don’t matter or should be ignored. Let’s just say your list shouldn’t have very many single word keywords. Moving on…
With this initial round of brainstorming be sure to include variations such as synonyms, misspellings, alternate spellings, and plural forms. Yes, the difference of a single letter can be significant.
CAPTURE AND CATEGORIZE
At this point you want to be sure you’re capturing all your ideas. I’ve used legal pads, whiteboards, post-its, and mind mapping apps. Sooner or later it’s going to end up in a spreadsheet, so you might just start there. Do something, but don’t restrict the flow of creative juice.
As you’re building your list it is helpful to categorize keywords. This will make the list more manageable.
Keywords are commonly categorized based on implied searcher intent. What kind of results are they looking for? Shopping? Transactional. Academic articles to help write a report or news? Informational. Are they just looking for a brand website? Navigational.
Additional keyword categories I often use:
• branded – keywords that include the name of the business or its principals or employees
Example: Deep Ripples
• non-branded – opposite of the aforementioned branded keywords
Example: digital marketing firms
• geo – these variations include identifiers such as a state, city or neighborhood
Example: Indianapolis digital marketing firm
• niche – these are modifiers that emerge as you’re building the list
Example: digital marketing for attorneys
Often, the categorizing will lead to even more ideas. As mentioned about capturing, don’t get distracted from the current objective. You’re trying to be creative.
GEO-TIZE THOSE KEYWORDS
Google is constantly working to improve it’s search algorithms. Localization is one aspect of this effort. As I mentioned previously, if you do a search for “attorneys,” there is an assumption you’re looking for local attorneys. However, this isn’t always the case. Many times a searcher quickly realizes they need to add a geo-modifier to their query. Examples of these types of modifiers are city names and states. Depending on the area, it might also include a neighborhood name. (Later in the post I mention a tool that will help you quickly create these keyword variations.)
REVIEW WEBSITE ANALYTICS
Hopefully, you have Google Analytics or something like it already in place for your site. If not, drop everything and get that done pronto. Assuming you do, sift through your historical data to see how people have been finding your site via organic search. Google Webmaster Tools Query data is also useful. Now that it’s integrated directly in to Google Analytics getting that info is even easier. (You do have Google Webmaster Tools up and running, yes?)
ADD OBVIOUS KEYWORDS
Don’t miss the trees for the forest. Add the obvious, branded keywords to your list.
• name of the company w/variations
• name of the owners(s)
• sales people
• product name
Also include common misspellings of these branded keywords.
TALK TO THE HUMANS
Keep in mind that this is as much about psychology as anything. We need to get inside the searcher’s head; to think LIKE them rather than ABOUT them. Talk to some real live people. These need to be people outside of your organization and not in your industry. This could range from casual conversations to full-blown market research.
STEAL FROM COMPETITORS
It’s not so much stealing as drawing inspiration. What keywords do your competitors seem to be targeting? Clearly, this is only helpful if A) they’re targeting any keywords and B) they’re targeting the right keywords.
Similarly, what keywords are relevant trade and industry publications using. This is particularly relevant for B2B. These publications, especially if they’ve been around for a while, influence your market. If they’re putting content online, these websites may very well be your biggest online competition.
HELPFUL TOOLS FOR KEYWORD RESEARCH
There are many useful tools to help build your list of keywords. I’m only going to mention 3. These are simple, helpful, and FREE.
For most people the Google Keyword Tool is going to be a primary research tool. This tool is going to provide search traffic data, which will help us prioritize, but for now we’re just trying to get ideas. Its basic functions are fairly intuitive. I believe you’re smart enough to get started. Play around with it and see what you come up with.
This tool does exactly what the name suggests. It is quite simple to use and can save you quite a bit of time creating many different possible word combinations. This is a good way to take non-localized keywords and append a geo-modifier, such as a city name.
If you’ve been using Google and Bing at all, then you’ve seen their Related Searches and Suggested Searches recommendations. Ubersuggest is this on steroids. This is extremely valuable keyword information as it is another way to see what queries, and the many variations, people have actually been using.
By now you’ve got a nice, big, juicy list. It’s a good start. Next we need to whittle it down and establish priorities. I hate to leave you hanging, but that’s for my next post. In the meantime, I’ll take your questions. Since I’m always in learning mode, if you have any tips or suggestions, I’ll take those as well.